Next time you go out for a doughnut and drink for your morning break, Camille Lepre thinks you ought to ask yourself this question: Was it really worth $8,304?
That's how much the $2 you spent for a morning snack could be worth at your retirement in 25 years if you invested the money and received an 8 percent return compounded annually, says Lepre, a spokeswoman for Fidelity Investments the Boston-based mutual funds giant that operates a national telephone center and investment office in Salt Lake City."Significant trade-offs like packing a lunch rather than buying out, or foregoing a new outfit, can have a significant impact on your long-term savings," said Lepre, and that's the premise of National Pay Yourself Day.
More than 300 employers at some 2,500 work sites nationwide participated in Pay Yourself Day Thursday, a public education campaign sponsored by Fidelity that it terms a "call to action" for workers to fund their retirement by paying themselves in a retirement plan such as a 401 or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) before making discretionary or impulse purchases.
You probably don't think of buying lunch as a discretionary purchase. When noon rolls around each weekday, the need to feed seems mandatory, and so it is. But what, asks Lepre, if you were to brown-bag it twice a week instead of going out?
That $10 saved - assuming you put it in your retirement fund, not spend it on something else - could add up to $41,519 more for your "Golden Years" down the road.
If you go out to dinner a lot, the savings can be even greater. Cut back on one $25 dinner tab per week, and the retirement fund is $103,797 bigger down the road.
Again, that's based on an 8 percent annual compounded return over 25 years. It could be much more if you invest aggressively and the stock market continues the trend of recent years. It could be less if the market goes in the tank. Nor does it take into consideration inflation, income taxes or any possible penalties due on distribution if the money is taken out early.
Tyler Walton, vice president at Fidelity's Salt Lake City Investor Center, acknowledges that it's tough to save for a goal as far off as retirement but even a little saved today can mean a lot later, thanks to the "magic" of compounding and tax deferral.
"It makes it easier to give up something today if you think of it in terms of what the savings could mean for tomorrow, especially for your retirement," said Walton.
The key, he emphasized, is not to put it off. Start right now.
Financial planners agree that most people can cut back their spending by as much as 10 percent without any big lifestyle changes. For example, by forgoing a new outfit once a year, the estimated $200 invested turns into $15,791 at retirement.
The $12 saved from a monthly professional car wash becomes $11,488. Cut back on one compact disc purchase a month and look forward to an extra $14,360. Leave out one movie a month and the $10 saved turns into $9,574.
"Whether through workplace programs or their own individual savings efforts," said Walton, "the biggest hurdle many people face is taking that first step to get started. Make May the month you get started."